Tokamachi akashi chijimi textiles Tokamachi akashi chijimi
Elaborately woven patterns and comfortable texture
Such delicacy conjures up a vision of the wings of a cicada
Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi is a textile produced in the area surrounding Tokamachi City in Niigata Prefecture. This is a very delicate and thin textile that requires the high-level techniques and precision of the experienced craftsmen. An experimental textile based on the summer textile of Nishijin in Kyoto was produced at the end of the 19th century and the production and sales of the textile started from the mid-Meiji period (1868 – 1912). The characteristics of Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi are the elaborately woven beautiful patterns and the refreshing texture created by the hard-twisted highest quality weft threads. Silkworm cocoons that are used as raw material for the threads sometimes contain soiling or impurities at the beginning or at the end of the thread. These damaged threads cannot be used because the soiling becomes visible when they are twisted hard. Therefore, Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi has to use only the center part of the threads where there are less or no impurities. The skilled craftsmen weave delicately patterned threads carefully and precisely. A roll of textile that has a delicate texture is produced in such a way.
It is assumed that the silk-reeling industry had started in the area surrounding Tokamachi City in Niigata Prefecture a long time ago because a spindle base, which is a tool to twist the threads, was found in the Babanoue ruins (dated approx. 1500 years ago). Echigo Chijimi produced in this region was chosen for the warrior’s ceremonial robes in the Edo period (1603 – 1868). At the beginning of the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), textile production became the side business for farmers during their off-season. After that, a new product was researched and developed based on the summer textile brought back from Nishijin in Kyoto. The textile called Tokamachi Sukiya already existed and it became the base for Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi. The study to develop a technique to produce hard-twisted weft threads started around the same time. Then, using the new technique, Sukiya Chirimen was made and became successful. The success put the production of Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi fully in progress. They started selling the product in markets in the mid-Meiji period and the textile became the special product of the region. Tokamachi Akashi Chijime and Tokamachi Kasuri were designated as traditional national crafts in 1982.
General Production Process
- 1. Design (designing splash patterns and making the rulers)
Kasuri patterns for the textiles are designed including the composition and coloring in this process. The Kasuri rulers are also made in this process. A sample design or the idea for the design is marked on graph paper and the Kasuri design is made once the positions of the patterns have been decided. The work instructions for the following processes are made based on the positions of the patterns decided in this process. When the drawing is completed, Kasuri patterns are divided into the warp Kasuri and the weft Kasuri and the rulers are made accordingly.
- 2. Nenshi (twisting threads)
Raw silk or dupioni silk is aligned using Goshiki (doublers) and several threads are gathered together to make the appropriate thickness. Then the threads are twisted using a twisting machine to give the threads the necessary strength.
- 3. Hand stretching the warp and the weft
The threads are wound around bobbins or frames using Kurikaeshiki (a machine that winds threads repeatedly). After that, the warp and the weft threads are sorted into the necessary length and number separately based on the Kasuri design that was planned in the beginning.
- 4. Marking with ink and Kubiri (tie-dye)
The warp and the weft threads are set on the Haridai (pulling stand) or Ohariwaku (stretch frame) separately and the pattern is marked on the threads with ink. The Kasuri rulers have a mark at both ends that is called Mimi (ear). Mimi shows the width of the textile so the positions of the Kasuri patterns can be marked on the threads with ink. When marking of the warp and the weft threads is finished, the marked places have to be tied tightly with cotton threads or flat rubber bands.
- 5. Rubbing and dyeing
Surikomi (rub-dye) is one of the dyeing methods for Kasuri threads. This method is to rub dye into the threads using a spatula. In this process, the dye is rubbed into the marked places. When Surikomi is finished, the threads are tied into a skein. The threads and the base threads that do not have Kasuri patterns are kneaded together while being dyed repeatedly. After dyeing, Mushi (steaming) is done to settle the color. The threads are put in a steamer at 100℃.
- 6. Starching and over-twining
The starched weft threads are hard-twisted using Hacho Nenshiki (twisting machine). These weft threads are called Akashi Yoko and they are essential to produce Shibo, the distinctive pattern for Akashi Chijimi. The process of Hacho Nenshiki is specifically designated to produce Akashi Chijimi.
- 7. Preparation for weaving and actual weaving
First of all, the flat rubber bands and Kubiri have to be removed from the warp threads. They are loosened on a Saki Dai (stand). Once the threads are loosened, they are wound around Omaki (part of the loom) with the base threads while adjusting the patterns. The threads are sorted carefully along with the design and approx. 200 threads are put individually through the Sokome (eye of heddle) of the loom. Then, two threads ae put through the Osabane (dents of the reed). The weft threads are stretched and loosened on Ogoshidai after the flat rubber bands are removed. Then, the weft threads are wound around Teguriwaku (frame). Preparations are finished after the weft threads are set on the Kokoshidai and wound around the wooden tubes for weaving. The weaver adjusts the positions of the Kasuri patterns with both hands whilst weaving.
- 8. Finishing
The finished roll of textile is inspected and corrections have to be made if there is any soiling or uneven width in the weave.
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